Thursday, February 28, 2008

Review of "No Country For Old Men" by Cormac McCarthy

You might have been expecting a movie about people chasing each other. There was some of that in there. You might have been expecting a movie about good guys and bad guys. There were definitely bad guys; but "good guys"? I don't know. Reckon it might depend on what kind of low standard you have for good. Everybody was supporting cast, except one - Death.

My brother and I watched the movie recently, expecting something good from the Coen brothers, who know a good story (beyond the two scripts that make up most of what is produced these days). Loved it. Shots were great, pacing was great, and it deserved the awards it received. Javier Bardem was one amazing psychopath.

Here is what I think is the best tagline from the movie: You can't stop what's coming.

I liked it so much I got the book it was based on and just finished it; wanted to get more into the story. The movie is about as close as most get to the actual book, beyond some depth. Some of my favorite lines that give the flavor of what's coming:

Where did you get that?
From the gettin' place.

You all dont be makin light of the dead thataway, Bell said.
Wendell nodded. Yessir, he said. You're right. I might be one myself one day.

[Speaking of people on death row] Quite a few people didnt believe in it. Even them that worked on the row. You'd be surprised. Some of em I think had at one time. You see somebody ever day sometimes for years and then one day you walk that man down the hallway and put him to death. Well. That'll take some of the cackle out of just about anybody. I dont care who it is. And of course some of them boys was not very bright. Chaplain Pickett told me about one he ministered to and he ate his last meal and he'd ordered this dessert, ever what it was. And it come time to go and Pickett he asked him didnt he want his dessert and the old boy told him he was savin it for when he come back. I dont know what to say about that. Pickett didnt neither.

She got her cigarettes out and lit one and turned her face and blew the smoke out into the room. Bell watched her. How do you think this is goin to end? he said.
I dont know. I dont know how nothin is goin to end. Do you?
I know how it aint.

Here a year or two back me and Loretta went to a conference in Corpus Christi and I got set next to this woman, she was the wife of somebody or other. And she kept talkin about the right wing this and the right wing that. I aint even sure what she meant by it. The people I know are mostly just common people. Common as dirt, as the sayin goes. I told her that and she looked at me funny. She thought I was sayin somethin bad about em, but of course that's a high compliment in my part of the world. She kept on, kept on. Finally told me, said: I dont like the way this country is headed. I want my granddaughter to be able to have an abortion. And I said well mam I dont think you got any worries about the way the country is headed. The way I see it goin I dont have much doubt but what she'll be able to have an abortion. I'm goin to say that not only will she be able to have an abortion, she'll be able to have you put to sleep. Which pretty much ended the conversation.

So if the real conflict in the story is not that somebody took some money and others want to have it (which by the end of the book you are saying in west Texas lingo: That boy must be dumber'n dirt; you don't spit in the wind), then what is the real conflict? It is the fight against destiny, the fight against the end of the journey, and believin that somehow, someway, that this myth expressed in the following conversation will come true:
We dont have problems. When we have problems we fix em.

Here is what you do know: you might grow old in this country, but it won't last long...


Digg this

Stanley Hauerwas and the Abolition of War

For those of you about to Podcast, I salute you! At least to check out this podcast from Stanley Hauerwas on his article on the Abolition of War. To listen to it, you'll need the latest version of iTunes. Go to the iTunes Store, and then to iTunes U. At Duke University, his two-part broadcast is located under "Our Daily Bread." There is about 2 minutes of dead space at the beginning, but it is well worth listening to - unless you are pro-war.

And I hope that the vast majority of people are against going to war. One point that Dr. Hauerwas makes is that it isn't middle-aged people like myself that go to war, it is our kids that are put on the sacrificial table to kill or be killed for certain beliefs that are not always spelled out. He, a pacifist (or in his preferred lingo, a peace-maker), wrote the article with a person who is a just-war advocate.

It doesn't matter who you are, war should be an evil thing. In the case of just-war advocates, it is a method of last resort and only under certain conditions. Part 2 is particularly fascinating because he talks about how hard it is to speak against war, even though war is about killing other human beings, no matter how we justify it, because it creates its own justification by our relations with people involved in it. Think about how hard it is to say something negative against the war in Iraq. If you say it is an unjustified war, then there is the perception that you are belittling the people who lost their lives in the war, rather than saying something about the people who made the decision to put these kids lives on the line for a particular reason.

This is one post that I would probably prefer that people not respond, because print is such a hard medium to have a conversation. But I do believe that conversations should be had. Are there alternative possible decisions, other than violence, for those that claim to follow Christ when it comes to making peace?


Digg this


I am way more excited about this than I should be - this evening a friend and I are joining a league for pickleball doubles at the local YMCA. I know this shouldn't rank among top events to celebrate in one's life, but it is at least above getting a new book, which is a big event for me but not too big because I get one a month, definitely bigger than watching the superbowl (although it was a pretty great party) and even bigger than going to my favorite restaurant.

Perhaps you've never heard of pickleball? It is a mix of tennis and pingpong on a badminton court - a swell combination if you ask me. Somebody was bored, had a paddle and actually wanted to do something with it than mash a sibling.

So what, do you do when your bored? What have you been excited about lately?


Digg this

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Review of "American Shaolin" by Matthew Polly

The cover is worth the price of checking it out of the library: "Flying kicks, Buddhist Monks, and the Legend of Iron Crotch: An Odyssey in the New China" with a picture of a monk carrying a Burger King bag. Now that's good.

And it really was an entertaining read. Basically the story of a boy becoming a man, and I didn't even have to think that up - he tells you. He is marking off his list of obstacles to becoming the Matt that he should be. What drives him to China and a shaolin temple is number 3 on the list: "cowardly." He goes on a journey hoping to learn some kung-fu from some tough Asian brothers, and discovers much more.

Just reading about real life in China, that extremely large elephant in the kitchen of global power, is fascinating by itself, especially told from the viewpoint of a common traveler meeting with common Chinese people (admittedly, a person who can take a kick in the crotch is not all that common). It is also an interesting read from the anthropological view - we see the commonality and the vast cultural differences from the eyes of someone that hasn't yet formed a crusty layer of rigidity in how relationships work across boundaries.

Overall, a good, quick read. Not a classic, but worth checking out.

What is even more interesting to me is the list. Matt makes a list of what he needs to do to become a "man." Where did he get the picture of what a "man" should be like? How do you determine what is your final goal of what you should be, and how do you assess it?

My own goal, in those frank moments when I squirm while thinking of my incompetencies, is "fully human," admittedly from the viewpoint of a follower of Jesus. From this viewpoint, I will one day be there and at the moment I'm a work in process. I love conversations in which we discuss the characteristics of someone fully human. I do have my own list of obstacles:

1. Patience

I honestly have much work to do, and more than this blog could hold. Patience is at the moment my number one.

So what are your lists? How are you working on them? I have asked a gentleman older than myself to meet with me occasionally so we can talk about my goals, and who I can bounce ideas. It's been great for me, but you'll have to ask him how much he likes me bugging him every week...


Digg this